My First Step

By Haven Lindsey  in  blog  on  10.28.2022

It’s a few days before Halloween – a holiday that for me probably has more fun memories than all others combined. It is snowing and covering our beautiful sacred landscape with the dry, powdery snow that is so light skiers think they’re on another planet and I need only a broom rather than a shovel to clear my porch.

I have a cold. Not one of those polite sniffly colds where I can fake looking and sounding healthy and curl up and enjoy watching a movie or something. No, this is decidedly not that. I have one of those beastly colds that move in and render every activity uncomfortable to miserable. Being the professional-level bath taker I am, I’ve taken two today and both times were the only moments where I felt slightly comfortable. I don’t feel well enough to read, nap, or watch anything on TV. So, what I do revert to instead? I seek the comfort of my laptop, to write the feelings, to capture the moment, to open up to that space that becomes a writer’s companion, a writer’s solace, a writer’s voice, and perhaps tonight, this writer’s connection.

Vince Guaraldi’s Rain Rain Go Away is playing lightly in the background. You may not recognize the artist but most would recognize the song from the Charlie Brown cartoons, where Linus plays his toy piano and Snoopy gets into all sorts of situations. It’s feel-good music and admittedly offers some comfort.

I’m not sure why I’ve had such a hit lately – first with COVID, which was seemingly erased quickly, but now after days of feeling great I’m once again hit, this time with this beast. I look like the before picture in the cold medicine ads. I used to get sick when I was married, my mind and body so much smarter than my brain, sending me signals to get the hell out. I didn’t understand those messages then and this is the first cold of this level that I’ve had since that long ago marriage. It’s hard for me not to think this is a message yet it might just be a god-damned cold that needs no other label or dissection.

I’m reflective by nature. It’s what helped me survive a fucked-up, contradiction-filled childhood and navigate adulthood by owning my pain and holding myself accountable for healing rather than blaming others who likely did the best they could. I interview a lot of people for articles and stories that I’m fortunate enough to write about and am always impressed with their ability and willingness to stop and answer questions they weren’t expecting. Famous folks and not-so-famous, they’re all similar in that they love the attention that a thoughtful question poses. The kind that makes them think and perhaps remove a label for a moment to get to the bones of who they really are. I almost always ask myself the same questions later if I haven’t already. It’s helped me to realize that the best thing I’ve ever done is not about raising a boy or writing a book but rather breaking the pattern of dysfunction into which I was born.

But tonight, as I pace around the house uncomfortable from the beast, I’ve no appetite and go from hot to cold to hot again, with piles of tissues filling every trashcan, I can’t help but think about the trip I’m going to take in February. Part of me is dreading the trip, and part of me is looking forward to it. For sure, nothing about it will be comfortable.

Each year I do something special for my February birthday. It’s part of those steps of healing and navigating – a vow I took decades ago to honor me for being me. But this time, instead of going on a dive trip or exploring a new country for fun and excitement or biking through Thailand, or spending days on end at a spa, I’m doing something different. Finally answering a call that I’ve heard for years, finally tapping into the courage that took decades to develop and trust. I’ll fly into Krakow first and then move on to Budapest. I’m neither Jewish nor German, but I will be paying homage and respect to the concentration camps of World War II. I will go to all the places and see the museums and walk the grounds. I won’t be surrounded by the comfort or anonymity of a group, I won’t have a guide to lead me around. It will be just me. I will spend as much time at those sites as I can, walking the grounds, meditating on the tracks, and I guess trying to understand how man can be so weak and cruel and how man can be so strong and resilient.

Tonight, as I sit in my warm home, with a young kitten sound asleep on my lap, it’s hard for me to not think and feel what it was like to be imprisoned in Eastern Europe in the winter months steeped in uncertainty, removed from every possible comfort and loved one, without proper clothing, without shoes, without heat, without food, without a blanket, without a mattress, and in their place, sickness and disease and injuries and fear and pain.

I never intended to write about this experience but I suppose if I’m true to who I am, and I am a writer, it was silly to think I wouldn’t. I think tonight as I sit wearing warm, fuzzy socks, listening to Vince play Charlie Brown music, alternatively breathing through one nostril and then the other as they take turns opening and clogging up again, I realize I have to share this journey that I’ve already begun to take.

As shitty as I feel, with no appetite and my nose worn raw despite the Americanized soft tissues I use, I am grateful for this beast of a cold who has come in to perhaps help me connect with this journey that I’m about to embark upon. I’ve taken a lot of steps in my life but this almost feels like my first one. Pema Chodron teaches us to go to what scares us because that is where the lessons and growth are. Over and over and over again, I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone, and I’ve welcomed the things that scare me but I think this time, I’m scared in an all-new way. I’m not going with a friend or a partner or a group. I’m going on my own to witness and see the places that altered humanity, for a reason that I cannot answer. I think by the time I board the flight I may have a better understanding and if not, my guess is I will have that answer when I make that return flight.

This won’t be about a new geographical discovery, learning a new language, or fitting into a new culture – all things I’ve accomplished and enjoyed. Rather, this will be about discovering feelings and emotions that I’ve not yet met. I’m scared yet I’m brave enough to try.


~ Haven


Photo taken from a Jewish museum in Germany, courtesy of Marie Bellando Mitjans.